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EXCLUSIVE: Federal Climate Panel to Seek Practical Steps to Meet, Possibly Exceed Canada’s 2030 Target

Steven Guilbeault/Facebook | Tamara Vrooman/Simon Fraser University via flickr

Proven, practical measures to reach or even push beyond Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets will be the focus for the federal government’s new climate change advisory panel, co-chair Steven Guilbeault told The Energy Mix in an exclusive interview Sunday.

While details of the panel’s mandate are still being finalized, Guilbeault and co-chair Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancity Credit Union, are operating on a short timeline: they’re due to report their findings back to Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna and Finance Minister Bill Morneau in spring 2019.

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Morneau called [2] the two “clean growth leaders” last Wednesday, when he delivered his fall economic update in the House of Commons.

“My hope is that we’re able to go out across Canada and meet people, organizations, communities, municipalities, that are doing interesting things that for one reason or another haven’t been captured in the pan-Canadian framework [3] so far,” Guilbeault told The Mix. While Morneau instructed the panel to pay special attention to carbon reductions in buildings and transportation, Guilbeault said he and Vrooman will have scope to look farther afield, as well. They may be joined by additional panelists, possibly with mandates to address specific aspects of the issue.

“There are a lot of amazing things happening in Canada,” he said, citing the zero-emission vehicle mandates introduced some time ago in Quebec, and just recently in British Columbia [4]. And while “my plan is not to start travelling and adding to my CO2 footprint,” there may be lessons to be learned from other countries’ experiences, as well.

With limited time and a limited mandate, it’s unlikely the panel will fund efforts by civil society to develop feedback or mobilize around the process. “I sincerely doubt there will be some big structure build around the panel,” Guilbeault said. But “that doesn’t preclude us going out and meeting with different groups and organizations” to collect ideas that will “move the needle a bit, if not a big bit, on climate in Canada”.

Guilbeault and Vrooman will also have access to government modelling to sort out the emission reductions and financial implications—positive or negative—of the new strategies they recommend.

He added that the panel won’t set out to review past government decisions—and won’t likely get into policy areas like climate risk disclosure or the accountability mechanism backing up the pan-Canadian plan. “We’re not equipped to write legislation or regulations,” he said. “We’re looking for ideas for programs or initiatives that will result in emission reductions. Issues like reporting and accountability fall a little bit outside our mandate,” although with that mandate still being finalized, “I’m not closing any doors yet.”

Guilbeault added that “the government has a pretty good idea of what they’re getting by asking me to be one of the co-chairs. My position on a number of issues regarding Canada’s climate policy is publicly known, there are no secrets there.”

At the same time, “I want to see if we’ve left some stone unturned. Maybe there are things government hasn’t been able to look at so far, or hasn’t had time to dig into, and that’s where we can help.” He also pointed to fuel price protests in France and elsewhere as examples of the risks governments can run when climate policy gets ahead of public opinion.

“it’s easy for us as climate activists to feel very passionate. We’re very worried about what we’re seeing, and we would like things to go very quickly,” he said. “At the same time, I think it’s the government’s job to ensure that we move on this together as a nation, and people don’t feel left out or short-changed in the process. Because if that starts to happen, I’m not sure it’s going to help us move where we need to go.” In that light, “if Tamara and I can help them move this in a way that builds social cohesion, then we will have achieved our goals.”

When Morneau announced the panel, Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said the panel should have had more business representation, particularly from the resource, small business, and finance sectors. “We should probably remind him that Vancity manages more than $25 billion in member assets,” Guilbeault said. “Someone who can do that in the context of the Canadian economy probably has a pretty good grasp of what it is to manage money and invest it in a very responsible way.”

The panel’s role “is to have our eyes on where the Canadian economy, and frankly where the world economy is moving,” he added. “There are clear transformations that are happening, and will be very positive if they’re done well. Part of our role is to highlight what that can mean concretely for the Canadian society—for the economy, sure, but for the society as a whole, as well.”

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "EXCLUSIVE: Federal Climate Panel to Seek Practical Steps to Meet, Possibly Exceed Canada’s 2030 Target"

#1 Comment By Rick Maltese On November 26, 2018 @ 11:35 AM

I hope the panel choice of Steven Guilbeault appointed to the feds’ climate advisory panel is not a mistake.
This is the same guy who pushed the PQ government of Pauline Marois to kill the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant refurbish project. Now Marois no longer there and the provincial mandate to go all hydro is pushing the limits of good sense. Quebec is fortunate to have the waterways and unique topography for exploiting it’s hydro-electric potential. Most of the other provinces don’t have the same opportunity. If a panel like this wants to set the tone for a solution to climate change targets they need to look at long term solutions.

There are only a narrow range of choices and looking for new ways although noble is a slap in the face to our own home-grown nuclear energy fleet. Both Quebec and Ontario are clean energy provinces. Ontario could not have eliminated coal without ramping up nuclear energy.

We can’t look at the closing of nuclear plants as a solution, quite the contrary. The US had over 100 reactors until recently and states where they have shut down nuclear plants have had serious setbacks. As can be seen from the closing of San Onofre, Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee they all relied heavily on natural gas to replace the missing power. Coal and natural gas are going to be around longer if we continue to ignore the most flexible and reliable of energy choices. And the record shows, despite the propoganda and hysteria that suggests otherwise, nuclear enrgy is the safest of all energy sources.

Looking at why Ontario succeeds is to pay attention to it’s energy mix. Mostly Nuclear energy and Hydro are the saviours. Alberta faces some big challenges without either choice available. It is worth looking at how other countries fail or succeed. Scandinavia and Quebec are similar but the current Canadian mandate is looking at renewable energy as does Germany and California. Germany after spending billions on wind and solar and shutting down many of their nuclear plants has been forced to add coal plants and import their electricity from France and neighbouring countries. Ontario is more like France with their energy mix being more than 60% nuclear energy. France is closer to 75%.

We also should not let mismanaged energy economics as demonstrated by Ontario Liberals as wise policy. We need to learn from our mistakes. Ontario although somewhat enviable on the GHG emissions chose an expensive and unprofitable way to introduce renewable energy. The long term contracts that promised to subsidze wind and solar as if they produce 24/7 cost the tax payers dearly.

The carbon fee and dividend that the Federal government has recently adapted is a step in the right direction but unless they stop buying into the culture of fear regarding all things nuclear we will not meet our goals without economic losses. The attempts to malign nuclear energy needs more pronuclear advocacy as a voice of reason.

#2 Comment By Frank White On November 26, 2018 @ 3:29 PM

I hope the excessive length of this comment does not dissuade visitors from reading it. It is worth reading.

Comments by Co-chair Steven Guilbeault signal that the panel’s final report — to Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna and Finance Minister Bill Morneau in spring 2019 — is likely to be received favourably. For instance, Guilbeault says the panel’s mandate “… doesn’t preclude us going out and meeting with different groups and organizations” to collect ideas that will “move the needle a bit, if not a big bit, on climate in Canada”. Elsewhere, he notes, “The panel’s role ‘is to have our eyes on where the Canadian economy, and frankly where the world economy is moving … There are clear transformations that are happening, and will be very positive if they’re done well.”

It’s beyond shameful For Guilbeault (and the Liberals who set the mandate) to put forward such apathetic expected outcomes in the face of recent urgent warnings that climate change will, or already has – to cite recent headlines — “shrink the US economy”, “kill thousands”, “worsen disasters”, “triggered extinction rebellions in the UK, Ghana and the US”, “mobilized a march for action in Quebec”, and so much more.

Obviously, the fix is already in on this panel. Citizen input would be a great waste of time.
More to the point, if the research findings of Dr. Tim Garrett, atmospheric physicist at the University of Utah, are correct, the work of the federal panel is all for naught. Although Garrett has been engaged in extensive climate-related research dating back to 2009, his groundbreaking work on the risks associated with Earth’s rapidly changing climate is not widely circulated.

On the subject of proposed solutions to reduce climate risks, here’s how Garrett puts it: “I think if we are to find solutions, we should not be pursuing goals or plans or fairy tales, whatever they are, we should be trying to understand how the system really works.”

And no one understands better than Garrett how the system really works.

At the risk of not giving one of Garrett’s key findings the attention it deserves, I’ll paraphrase it this way: Humanity is caught in a double-bind ending in global economic collapse, from which, in Garrett’s words, “there is no way out”. Here’s the double-bind: If we cease to globally grow consumption of energy and raw materials, then the global economy must collapse; And if we DON’T cease to globally grow consumption of energy and raw materials, we still collapse due to climate change and environmental destruction.

Simply put, there are no solutions, including, for example: transition to 100% renewables; conservation; clean energy; geo-engineering technologies; production efficiency measures; sucking carbon out of the atmosphere; degrowth, controls on population growth; and whatever else — All likely futile.

I suspect the reason Garrett’s research is not more widely circulated is that it is based on physics, and not always easy to understand. In addition, his forecast of the collapse of civilization and the global economy within decades is, in his own word, “frightening”. Who wants to read that The End Is Near? – it scares away readers, donors, advertisers, and especially politicians.

For those who want to make the significant cognitive investment, you can find links to 21 articles by Dr. Garrett, and by others about his research, by visiting –[Civilization/Economic Collapse ~ Links to All Posts By or About Dr. Tim Garrett’s Research] at URL ( [5] )

#3 Comment By Mitchell Beer On November 26, 2018 @ 4:19 PM

So are you proposing a panel to explore and affirm Garrett’s contention that there are no solutions?
I certainly can’t speak for either panelist, Guilbeault or Vrooman. But in the same edition of The Mix, we cover the rapid growth of Extinction Rebellion, and the much more drastic/realistic solutions that movement is demanding. I’d be shocked if they aren’t both already on top of that.
As for there being no remaining options — Garrett has his view. We’re also hearing from the IPCC and others that all the elements of a solution are in place except political will — that, they said in early October, is the last box to check. Which would shed a positive light on anything that will damp down the faux controversy around post-carbon solutions in a petro-state like Canada (or Australia, or others) and drive toward faster, deeper carbon cuts.
I’ll express the view that, if we really want to immobilize everyone we talk to with fear and grief, let’s spread Garrett’s message far and wide…then conclude that it must be all over, because there are no popular movements rising up to push for solutions. However, we do have another option, unless we’re more interested in being the smartest kids in the room than in actually getting anything done. If we work from the assumption that the last chapters of this story aren’t written yet, and we still have a chance to write them, that opens up a whole menu of strategies and solutions that are not guaranteed to deliver the outcome we need, but nor are they yet guaranteed to fail. That menu would quite possibly include a short-lived federal expert panel.

#4 Comment By Margaret Holm On November 26, 2018 @ 5:17 PM

Not sure we need another panel and another report. Studying things is a way for governments to signal that they are doing something, while doing little. We already know that governments have to step up with strong regulations and incentives to lower GHG emissions and strong-arm provinces to follow them. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.

#5 Comment By Frank White On November 26, 2018 @ 10:36 PM

Mitchell, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Re your opening remark about my “proposing a panel” I trust you’re not being serious here? However, I would welcome an environmental NGO to step forward and invite an independent atmospheric physicist to do a critical analysis of Garrett’s research methodology and results. Perhaps The Mix would consider doing this?

I applaud The Mix’s coverage of actions/solutions to address the climate crisis. But while the Panel may, in your words be “on top of that”, how and in what context will this matter be presented in its final report, especially given Guilbeault’s telling remark about “moving the needle a bit on climate change”, and “have our eyes on the Canadian economy.” Trudeau and McKenna have repeatedly emphasized we can grow the economy and reduce emissions,” so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the panel told them what it knows they want to hear.

Re political will, here is what Garrett has written in that context: “Can we really navigate our way out of the potential for a broad scale breakdown simply by applying a sufficiently powerful dose of political and economic will? It would be wonderful to think so. Yet we still have to acknowledge that there are physical limits to what is possible. The human world is as much part of the natural universe as anything else, and if we readily accept that the complex motions of climate march to physical laws, it may be unreasonable to imagine that society should be an exception.” (Source: Shortlink [6] )

Mitchell, it is not inevitable – as you seem to suggest — that Garrett’s research findings will “immobilize everyone we talk to with fear and grief.” On the contrary, if more people bothered to read and tried to understand his research results, they might realize that doing more of the same — or, in your words, “open up a whole menu of strategies and solutions” — in the hope that things might turn out differently, may not be the answer either.

If you have not yet read any of Garrett’s scientific papers, or his less technical articles, or listened to his 4 radio interviews, or read articles by others about Garrett’s work, including 2 pieces by a physicist, on what basis are you dismissing (dissing) his physics-based analysis? As Garrett says, the nice thing about physics is that the hypotheses are testable and can be refuted. So far, to the best of my knowledge, his research has not been refuted. Have you closed your mind to the possibility that he may be right? And if he could be right, isn’t the public entitled to know? Or do we keep this knowledge from them?

I trust your closing comment about “being the smartest kids in the room” doesn’t apply to Garrett or me. As for the rest of the paragraph, I generally agree, provided — as I said above – we do not keep doing more of the same, or a bit differently, in the possibly misguided hope that things might turn out differently.

Always a pleasure.

#6 Comment By Mitchell Beer On November 30, 2018 @ 12:54 PM

Thanks, Frank, and apologies for the delayed reply. The “smartest kids in the room” comment was not aimed at you! And I strongly agree that we need a lot more, right away, than just “doing more of the same, or a bit differently”.
But I do stand by the concern that a message of no hope, no possibility, not ever, whatsoever, becomes a particularly vicious, self-fulfilling prophecy. The counterpoint to that is not to suggest that the easy tech solutions are out there and everything will be fine, nor that a bit of fine-tuning will get us where we need to go. But when I look at the range of credible analysis and commentary — from Garrett to the IPCC to Project Drawdown, and all the others that are out there — I think the balance still supports a sense that we’re in a civilization-wide crisis, we’re facing our generation’s defining challenge, but the last chapters haven’t been written and we still have scope to write them.
And I _am_ convinced that awfulizing — emphasizing the truly terrible news that crosses our desk every day, without also pivoting to the options and possibilities available to us — will almost always immobilize people rather than building momentum for deeper, more genuine solutions. The “smartest kids in the room” I was thinking of are the knowledgeable, committed and, yes, generally very smart colleagues in the climate and energy community who seem to reflexively focus _only_ on the latest crisis news. I’ve seen audiences visibly deflate in response. And I’ve seen people re-engage, not when they’re presented with false hope of an easy fix, but at the suggestion that there’s still some balance to the story.
Something I’m hearing a lot these days is that, as the public moves from apathy to understanding of the climate crisis, too many people are go straight from disengagement to despair, without pausing (ideally for a long while) in the space where we actually work to change things. That’s the death knell for anything we might hope to achieve over the next dozen years, precisely because the scale of change we agree we need will depend on broader public engagement and support — as the underpinning for the political will that the IPCC’s Jim Skea identified as the “last tick box” to be checked.
So I’m not objecting to the information, nor to the urgency. But for those very reasons, I’m more convinced than ever that we have to convey the hope and focus on the solutions that are supported by the evidence we have in our hands.
And YES, always a pleasure!

#7 Comment By David J Wilson On November 27, 2018 @ 1:22 PM

Panel of two?

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